charlton comics

Blue Beetle v.1 #3

Cover of Blue Beetle #3 by Steve DitkoUntitled, AKA “The Diver” – Oct. 1967

Plot: Steve Ditko
Art: Steve Ditko
Script: D.C. Glanzman
Lettering: A. Machine
Published by Charlton Comics

Dripping water from gloved hands, an eerie figure in a diving suit leaves behind a victim on the fifth story of a construction site. Soon, an investigation begins: “This is unbelievable! How could one of the 4 Square Construction owners be drowned…six stories above street level?” The night watchman claims a deep sea diver running away from the scene, but surely that’s insane!The remaining three owners meet later behind closed doors and discuss the awful truth: “10 years ago, when we were in the salvaging business, we got rid of Pike in a faked diving accident. Now it looks like someone is out to get us…But I don’t believe in ghosts!” says one owner. Another expresses his belief that one of his two partners is trying to get “cute.” But there’s no time for in-fighting — they’re all in this together. And besides, that pesky reporter Vic Sage has been snooping around. They’ll have to play it like they have nothing to hide.

Speaking of Vic Sage, crosstown at W.W.B. headquarters, Syd Starr is trying to convince Sage that his job is to report the news, not to make it. Sage quickly counters that Syd isn’t, “qualified to draw boundaries around my job.” Sage also gives the cold shoulder to a man named Evers, a representative for one of Sage’s sponsors who Sage refuses to deal with until a loan is repayed. Sage won’t miss the money, says Evers, he’ll recoup it from the sponsor Evers represents. One word from Evers, according to Evers at least, and the sponsor will drop Sage cold. Still, Sage refuses to deal with the man until he repays the debt.

Syd and the Yes Men have gathered in the hallway: “Let’s see what our newest member to the Hate Sage Club can contribute to Sage’s downfall!” Syd attempts to convince Evers to sweet talk his sponsor into dropping Sage, but Evers reveals the truth behind his hollow threats: “It’s no use, Syd, my stupid sponsor wants Sage, period! He’d dump me before Sage!

Sage meets up with Nora Lace in the office, where she gives him a stack of data his news team has assembled on the owners of 4 Square Construction. Sage decides to drop in on the owners to see how they’ve responded to the diving suit murder. An underling blocks Sage at the door, proclaiming that the investigative reporter is the last person his boss, Mr. Crane, would want to talk to. But even as he says this, there’s a cry for help from Crane’s office. Sage bursts in to find Crane down, but still conscious, in a puddle of water. A trail leads out the back door, where Sage spots the Diver making a getaway. Sage decides to make a transformation: “The Question can do the job then disappear whereas Vic Sage would be tied up telling and retelling what happened to every inquisitive soul!”

With the mask on and the gas released, the Question makes chase over rooftops and spots the Diver heading toward the pier. Swinging down from an awning pole, the Question takes the Diver down with a Florsheim to the back of the head. The Diver turns quickly and plants a foot of his own across the Question’s face, but the faceless hero takes note: “That suit’s a fake. A kick by a real lead shoe would have finished me!”

There’s something to the suit that the Question didn’t count on, the water that comes from the gloves that the Diver uses to drown his victims: “Glub!” he exclaims. But the Question has something up his own literal sleeve, namely the quick-change gas. It billows out into the Diver’s face and distracts him enough to let up for a second, as the Question flips him into the water. “Looks like I have competition!” says Sage. “Someone else is out to get the 4 Square bunch—only he doesn’t want them in jail–he wants them dead!”

Sage releases the mask and postulates on his next step: “The information my staff dug up might provide a clue as to the identity of this Diver of Death! I’d better change back to Vic Sage and get a move on…I’m in a race with a killer!”

Later at the office of 4 Square, the three owners meet up again. Crane puts forth the theory that one of his partners tried to get rid of him, while another of the owners speculates that Crane could’ve staged the whole thing himself. But why would he do that? And how could he plan on Sage being there? The third owner tells his partners to calm down — they’ve got two enemies now, The Diver and Vic Sage. Or do they? That night, the Diver adds another pair of victims to his list, thinking to himself, “Number 3 and then the partnership is no more! After I provide the police with their murderer, I’ll be safe and rich. I’ve planned everything out perfectly!”

Meanwhile, Sage has turned up a lead in the old 4 Square records, the possibility that one of the divers from the old salvage operation might be the key to the series fo murders. He races to the docks in his faceless persona, where he’s spotted by the Diver. The Diver’s plan has almost come to fruition, and he can’t afford any meddling now: “He’s got to die!” He leaps up and pulls the Question into the water, where tight hold of the murderer threatens to drown the hero. The Question manages to shove the Diver away with his feet, and he breaks away in the dark water.

The Question emerges from the depths near the old salvage operations with the diver nowhere in sight. He goes inside to check for records but finds instead a man sitting upright and rigid — too rigid to be dead. He’s alive, says Sage, but he’s under the effects of some drug. He must’ve been the one who built the diving suit. The Question continues his search for records, realizing that the drugged man is a fall guy. He finds a recently written telephone number on a notepad.

Outside, the Diver has figured out where the Question disappeared to and doesn’t mean to fail in his goal of killing the hero this time. He sets fire across the dock behind the salvage operation: “I can’t afford to let either one of them live, especially my ex-helper — I’ll ahve to work out a new plan! I was going to put that drugged fool in this suit he made for me and then kill him, making it look like self-defense. He’d get blamed for killign all the others and I’d be in the clear!

Flames and smoke flood the inside of the salvage shack. The Question thinks quickly and uses a diving helmet to bash out the rotten planks in the floor. He grabs the body of the drugged man and plunges through, hoping the smoke disguises their escape from the Diver who is surely waiting to ensure their death. Sure enough, the Diver doesn’t see them, and heads off to formulate a new plan for blaming Jake, the drugged man, for the murders of the 4-Square owners.

The Diver arrives at his destination, still wearing the suit, to find a card hanging from the ceiling. As he takes it in his hand, the card begins to smoke, revealing the question mark calling card of the Question. “You think that suit will save you from the hot water you’re in?” asks the Question, emerging from the darkness. “But how??” wonders the Diver. “Wait! You’re not the law–we can get together and make a deal!” A deal? This only makes the Question laugh and he continues to laugh as the Diver pleads, offers partnership, offers money.

The laughter gets to the Diver and he lashes out in frustration. The Question deflects the blow and counters with one of his own: “It’s out of your hands, Mr. Crane. The guy I pulled out of the fire will talk!” The Question removes the diving helmet to reveal Crane, and drops a right haymaker across his bare face. Crane yells out: “You can’t send me to prison! Not now! I own everything!”

But the Question won’t stand for it: “You got it wrong! Prison is not where I want to send you! It’s the electric chair. You worked hard to prove you deserve to sit in it!” The Question delivers the knockout blow and pauses for a moment to contemplate the fate of the Diver: “The fool only thought of what he could gain—not what it would cost him if he failed—now to call the police!”

One Response to “Blue Beetle v.1 #3”

  1. Anthony Lloyd says:

    Great story and neat ending even if you saw it coming so true of todays world in business

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